In coaching Scrum Teams, I have run into so-called “zombie Scrum” in which teams only go through the motions and check things off the list. It is in these instances that I think back to a talk given by Simon Sinek called “Start with Why.” In his presentation, Simon presents a “Golden Circle” with concentric circles beginning with Why, enclosed by How, which is enclosed by What. He explains that this concept digs into why some leaders and organizations inspire and others do not. I see a relation to this concept of working within the Scrum framework.
When teams are stuck in “zombie Scrum” the focus is on what they are doing and the purpose and value of the practices are lost. Now, if teams were to shift and start with why they decided to pursue agility, an inspired Agile journey is possible as teams are engaged in why they are on this path.
When teams are stuck in “zombie Scrum” the focus is on what they are doing and the purpose and value of the practices are lost
In this article, I will focus on the Scrum events.
- Sprint Planning – In general, this is easily understood and practiced. However, the piece that is missing is crafting a Sprint Goal. This provides a foundation for the Sprint and the Scrum events because, without this piece, we miss a large piece of the overarching purpose.
- Daily Scrum – Teams tend to go through the three questions (What did you do yesterday? What will you do today? Any impediments?) or walk through a status report of every work item in the Sprint Backlog. The purpose of the Daily Scrum is to inspect the progress toward the Sprint Goal. The Daily Scrum brings value when the team comes together around a common goal, addresses impediments to their goal, and adapts the collectively-owned Sprint Backlog.
- Sprint Review – This event tends to be a PowerPoint presentation. The purpose of the Sprint Review is to inspect the potentially releasable Increment and adapt the Product Backlog through customer feedback and stakeholder communication. Therefore, we gather for Sprint Review for conversation and putting a piece of work in the hands of the customer; this is the value we strive to achieve.
- Sprint Retrospective – I see Retro practiced in a good-and-bad two-column format or start-stop-continue three-column format. This is fine; however, participants may not see value if the format is repetitious, conversations are not open, and/or action items are not clear, owned, and resolved. The purpose is to inspect people, processes, and tools so that the team can adapt accordingly in the following Sprint. It’s a quick feedback loop to try new things and improve Sprint-over-Sprint. To avoid the monotony, try unique tools including Liberating Structures or Retromat. There are plenty of print and online resources to give you additional ideas.
- The Sprint – Some teams see the Sprint as an inconvenient timebox in which they must get a set of work items done. In fact, the purpose of the Sprint is to shorten the customer feedback loop and ensure the right thing is delivered and it is delivered right. If teams are struggling with carrying work into subsequent Sprints, turn the conversations toward dependencies, impediments, collaboration, and the size of the work. Help the team to uncover why there is not a potential releasable piece of work at the end of the Sprint to hold true to its value.
If you get stuck and see uninspired practices, try to help teams identify the purpose of these practices and the value provided, so that fresh practices can emerge and teams own their own Agile journey.